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• Kamehameha Day and Kaua‘i
Kamehameha Day and Kaua‘i
Kamehamea Day, which is being celebrated tomorrow though today is officially the day when most state and county offices are closed, is a day to recall the Native Hawaiian heritage of the Hawaiian Islands.
Celebrations are being held across the state. A parade in Lihu‘e on Saturday will mark the event on Kaua‘i, with colorful pa‘u riders a traditional highlight of such parades.
Kamehameha was a great leader, a wise and brave man, whose life bridged the western discovery of Hawai‘i with the coming of the whaling era and the official end of the Hawaiian religion.
He is remembered on Kaua‘i especially for his “Ke Kanawai Mamalahoe” or “Law of the Splintered Paddle.” This allowed his people to freely travel an island without worry of attack. He was said to have been inspired to create this law when he was struck over the head with a canoe paddle by a commoner who was defending his homestead.
The mountain known as Mamalahoa that looms behind Hanalei town – the one to the far right – is likely named after Kamehameha’s law, with hoa (friendship) replacing hoe (canoe paddle), according to the Pukui, Elbert Mo‘okini book ‘Place Names of Hawaii.”
It is ironic that Kamehameha has a higher profile on Kaua‘i when it comes to celebrations than does Kaumuali‘i, Kaua‘i’s last king. When highways were being named in the 1930s, what is today Kaumuali‘i, running from Lihu‘e to Mana, was almost named Kamehameha Highway, as is the main old road around the island of O‘ahu. If we could go back in time to the 1810s and 1820s it is likely there would be popular support for holding a parade in honor of Kamehameha. Though the warrior who united Hawai‘i never was able to use military force to conquer Kaua‘i – he failed twice after mounting armies to accomplish the deed – he did win the support of Kaumuali‘i in 1810 at a meeting held near Pearl Harbor. It wasn’t until after Kamehameha’s death in 1819 that his son and heir Liholiho, Kamehameha II, sailed to Kaua‘i to exile Kaumuali‘i to O‘ahu in 1821. The defeat of Humehume, Kaumuali‘i’s son, in 1824 by an army brought in from O‘ahu, Maui and other islands ended once and for all the ancient Kingdom of Kaua‘i.
Today, over 175 years later, Native Hawaiians across the state are of one mind in many ways. The legacy of the Kamehameha’s control of Kaua‘i is a background issue today. Thus the popularity of holding a Kamehameha Day Parade on Kaua‘i has its roots in the pride taken in the past glory of the famous conqueror and the heritage he left behind.
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